Denis Shapovalov continues to struggle with the return down the T on the ad side as he still awaits a first tour semi-final win!

That was flat. A few weeks ago I said Denis’ performance against Felix Auger-Aliassime was what we had been waiting for and this was far from it.

Even against his defeat to Monfils in New York it was better.

Denis was the highest seed left in Chengdu and now he will head to Beijing thinking what could have been as he awaits his first ATP semi-final win falling to a 0-7 record.

The serving numbers from Denis were good;

71% first serve in
72% first serve won (21/29)
83% second serve won (10/12)
12 aces
0 double faults

Good? That’s very good! So, what went wrong?

The issue is returning serve. Both players won 24% on each others serve with Denis winning 13/55 and Pablo winning 10/41 on the Canadian serve but it’s more than what you win.

I like the fact he is ambidextrous with his one handed backhand and forehand but he needs to find a bit more control on what he wants to do.

I see this a lot…


There are moments in tennis when you see something about to happen and it’s an awkward watch.

Running around a shot to return serve can be good and bad. It can show trust or lack of trust. This is lack of trust in returning. There is pure panic in the back-tracking of the feet from Denis and then snaps the forehand into the net.

This is a problem with the timing and shot selection it is impossible to send the serve back with interest. All the movement and power in your body is going backwards so generating a good return is tough whilst leaning back. I saw a few times during the match the return either hit the net or go long.

This way of returning isn’t sustainable.

Opponents turn up and say; on the ad side, serve down the T against Denis Shapovalov.

As Masters 1000 events this year against opponents first serves he has faced 293 first serves on the ad side of the court. 189 of the 293 (64%) have gone down the T.

That is massive and a problem for Denis.

Out of the 189 down the T he has won 85 (45%).

What can a one handed player to return effectively down the T and stop that traffic going down there?

It’s on the verge of very tough but not impossible.

Screenshot 2019-09-28 at 10.48.14

Denis will have to sit a little deeper to return serve. He will have to prepare sooner if he wants to run around the first serve and hit a backhand it’s an option but will be tough to open up the body down the line and will have to look cross-court.

Similar situation with the forehand, the same timed run around will be needed but he would have to back off and it will be tough to generate much on it.

One of the techniques he does use is the sliced backhand return however, it doesn’t come back with anything on it. You can use the slice to be effective or to prolong a rally but prolonging a rally doesn’t mean it’s being effective.

Something has to change because everyone is going there and it won’t slow down. I saw against Carreno Busta in the 6-3 6-4 defeat to the Spaniard he just went there time and time again and the only answer he had was an ineffective slice, trying to run around the backhand/forehand and ending up in a pickle.






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